The Hollars. This film is an authentic and humorous look at a Made in America dysfunctional family. John Krasinski in his directorial debut stars as New York City artist John Hollar who doubts his talent and has become stuck in life. He is called home to his small town America hometown as his mother, Sally (a brilliant Margo Martindale), has fallen ill and needs a brain tumor removed. His NYC girlfriend, Rebecca (Anna Kendrick), who is eight months pregnant with their first child, takes an 8-hour cab ride to be with him. John is confronted with the crazy world he left behind. His brother has moved in with their parents and obsesses about his ex-wife. John’s old girl friend still has the hots for him while now married to Sally’s nurse. His dad (Richard Jenkins) is the very definition of denial. All of this dysfunction would overwhelm a normal guy but John truly loves his family and Rebecca and figures out how to make it all work. This indie film is in limited release and worth finding. Rated PG-13 for brief language and some thematic material. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years. This Ron Howard documentary is a must see for all Beatles fans and anyone who is too young to have experienced the magic of Beatlemania. Newly found footage featuring the music, interviews, and stories as the Beatles perform 250 live concerts from 1963 to 1966. From the cellars of Liverpool and Hamburg to huge stadium concerts around the world the Fab Four share their songs, lives and talent with us. It is amazing to see John Lennon in his prime and how the Beatles crafted their music in a true collaboration. This is a real toe-tapping treat, so find it and enjoy. Note, after the credits there is 30 minutes of the 1965 Shea Stadium Concert, fully restored and makes time stand still. Not rated but likely would be R for language, endless smoking and drug references. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
The Magnificent Seven. This is a remake of a remake and certainly did not need to be made again. Every Western cliché is employed except that the good guy (Denzel Washington) and the bad guy (Peter Sarsgaard) both wear back hats. The grieving widow with the heaving bosom, the clever Asian, the sharpshooter, the enigmatic American Indian, the crooked sheriff, endless gun battles and streets littered with bodies are all there. Most of the film is a slow and unnecessary build up to the massacre at the end; so no need to see the first hour or so, just waltz in about 70 minutes in and you won’t miss the carnage at the end. Rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material.
Bridget Jones’s Baby. Renée Zellweger is back as Bridget. The new and supposedly improved Miss Zellweger does her best to capture the spark that made the prior movies sparkle, but the film falls apart with vulgarity and a contrived story line. Bridget is 43 and lamenting her single life. She finds herself preggers after a fling at a music festival and a follow-up one-nighter with her old flame – Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth). Her career is in jeopardy with her pregnancy and she doesn’t even know who the father is. All of the pregnancy gags but with two competing fathers fill the film with banal adventures until the little tyke is finally born and paternity can be decided. The film is actually a sad commentary on modern London. Rated R for language, sex references and some nudity.
Mr. Church. Eddie Murphy is Mr. Church in this measured and beautiful performance. It is a powerful story of an unusual family that is born out of sadness. Mr. Church is a cook who is sent to care for a little girl, Charley, and her dying mother. The assignment is for six months but ends up being a lifetime. Mr. Church is a phenomenal cook who takes great care in food preparation and taste while he listens to jazz and smokes cigarettes. Mr. Church is full of wisdom and mystery as he steers the young girl through her youth, to womanhood and to motherhood. Britt Robertson is Charley and is a magnificent complement to Murphy’s sweet and volatile Mr. Church. This is a surprisingly good film that has had little promotion. Find it! It is a Peggy’s Pick. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements.
The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. This film is the Swedish version of the ultimate shaggy-dog story. Allan Karlsson has led a long and interesting life. He is now stuck in a nursing home because he blew up a fox with TNT after the fox killed his cat and chickens. On his 100th birthday, he jumps out a window and starts a crazy journey that involves a suitcase full of cash, an elephant, a biker gang and new friends as Allan reminisces about his colorful life. Allan’s past exploits involve such diverse characters as Stalin, Truman, Franco, Robert Oppenheimer and a love for blowing things up. Rated R for language and some violence. Based on the novel of the same name, this film is a hoot. Find it on VOD services.
Sully. Director Clint Eastwood knows how to make a great film, and this is another one. Take a great story and let great actors play their parts is a simple formula for success. On a cold day in January in 2009 Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) flew his disabled plane onto the cold water of the Hudson River. All 155 aboard the flight survived. The world celebrated his feat as the “Miracle on the Hudson”. Against this backdrop of adulation, Sully’s reputation and his career are being threatened by the NTSB investigation into the river landing. The film cleverly creates tension and conflict as the facts surrounding the event are carefully examined. The fears of Sully and his crew as they relive the incident are palpably distressing. The film grabs your attention from the opening scenes and keeps you rapt throughout even though the story is well known. Rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language. It is a Peggy’s pick and an Oscar contender.
Transpecos. An indie film with unknown actors who are quite good, with amazing cinematography that captures the barren desert of New Mexico and makes the location part of the story and is edited to keep the film well paced and always engaging. The film is a very bad day for three Border Patrol officers working a remote desert checkpoint looking for drug mules and illegals. Hobbs is a crusty old guy who likes to hassle the drivers coming through. Davis is a green rookie learning the ropes. Flores is a good guy trying to do his job. One car comes through their checkpoint that sets in motion a perfidious plot involving a drug cartel that reaches deep into the Border Patrol itself. Treachery abounds leaving nothing but despair – the drug war is futile. This is quite a good film, worth the effort to find and see. Not rated but would be R for violence and language.
Meddler. Susan Sarandon stars as Marnie in this light hearted comedy with a bit of a message. Marnie is recently widowed and travels from New York to LA to be near her only daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne). Marnie annoys and incessantly pesters her daughter because Marnie has no other life. Lori flees back to New York to escape her mother. Marnie has many opportunities to connect with LA people who care for her but she is too afraid of commitment. Marnie scoots back to New York to see her daughter, reconnects with her late husband’s family and finally grieves for her late husband. Upon return to LA she has the courage to visit a man who is quite interested in her and life is good again. Sweet and at times funny, but a bit too trite. Rated PG-13 for brief drug content
The Light Between Oceans. This beautifully photographed film is an unabashed weeper. True love and tragedy are experienced at a wind swept lighthouse off the coast of Australia. Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) has survived World War I. He seeks solitude and peace and signs on to be the lighthouse keeper on a remote island. While in town for supplies he meets Isabel (Alicia Vikander) and it is love at first sight. They marry and move to the island lighthouse and are incredibly happy. Isabel experiences two miscarriages that devastate them. A skiff is blown ashore with a young baby and a dead man. They bury the man and keep the baby and raise her as their own. They know they have done something horribly wrong in keeping the baby. Their charade unravels with tragic consequences. But as all seems lost the courage to do the right thing and to forgive drives the drama to its big climax. The story stretches credulity but the performances are quite good only outdone by the phenomenal scenery. Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual content. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Weiner. Anthony Weiner is a dick. This conclusion is emphasized over and over again in this documentary that Weiner himself stars in and authorized. His hubris is emphasized continuously as the cameras follow him around as he attempts to resurrect his career in a run for the Mayor of NYC. He is actually leading in the polls when his compulsive need to photograph his genitals scuttles his campaign. He dissembles on camera. His real crimes are hurting the people around him who dedicated themselves to his cause and lying to his wife who finally had enough of his false pride. At the end of the film, the cameraman states, “I can’t believe you let me film this”. Rated R for language and some sexual material. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Captain Fantastic. Viggo Mortensen is Ben, a father raising his six kids in the rain forest of the Pacific Northwest. He is incredibly dedicated to raising his kids outside of the mainstream with demanding physical activities coupled with a rigorous intellectual education. The six children are strong and smart well beyond their years. Ben’s wife and soul mate is away being treated for bi-polar disorder and she dies. Her death requires them to leave their nirvana and travel to New Mexico for her funeral. The trip is quite an adventure as the “real world” presents challenges and tests Ben’s ability to be a parent. The film confronts what is “normal” and celebrates what is possible with hard work and dedication. Parts of the story are a bit far fetched but the film’s philosophy is quite engaging. Rated R for language and brief graphic nudity. It is a Peggy’ Pick.
In Order of Disappearance. A delicious revenge film set in Norway. Stellan Skarsgård is Nils Dickman, who ploughs snow off the roads in the rugged mountains of Norway. Despite being of Swedish origin, Nils was recently awarded a Citizen of the Year Award. When his son is murdered, Nils seeks revenge since justice is not interested. Nils discovers that his son was killed by a drug gang who got the wrong guy. Nils methodically works his way up the chain of command of the drug gang cleverly dispatching the thugs. His actions start a war between the Norwegian vegan gangster “the Count” and the Serbian drug boss “Papa”. Winning a war against well-armed criminals isn’t easy, but Nils has a clear conscience, heavy equipment and luck. The film is darkly comic and loads of fun. It is available on iTunes and in some theatres. Rated R for bloody violence, and language throughout.
Mia Madre. This film is an existential exercise with an Italian flare. Margherita is an Italian film director, who is going through a very difficult period in her life. She is conflicted that the film she is currently making is an actual reflection of the contemporary world. She is at odds with her long-suffering crew. Her biggest professional issue is with Barry Huggins (John Turturo), a famous American actor of Italian origin. He is mercurial bad actor with a bad attitude. On the personal side Margherita just broke off with her long term inamorato, can’t relate to her teenage daughter and her beloved mother is dying. She is in denial on many levels, the question is will she face the facts and to come to terms with reality and herself. The film leaves us with the feeling that Margherita finds peace as she reflects on her mother’s life as a teacher and how her mother taught her, but she can only hear the lessons now. Rated R for language.
Hell or High Water. This film is a good old-fashioned Western drama that has abundant humor and a marvelous script. Two brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) set off on a bank robbing spree targeting branches of one specific West Texas bank. The bank is foreclosing on their ranch and they are raising money to pay off the mortgage. A couple of Texas Rangers, Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto (Gil Birmingham) are on the robbers trail. The Rangers are old buddies who never tire of one-upping one another and denigrating their respective heritages. Their repartee is remarkable and hilarious. The two brothers have quite a plan in place to steal just the right amount of money but their plans go awry with dire consequences. But their robin-hood-like zeal is infectious and we root for them to succeed. This is a very clever film with non-stop action – find it and enjoy. Rated R for some strong violence, language throughout and brief sexuality.
Southside with You. It is the summer of 1989 in Chicago and we get to go with Barack and Michelle on their first date. Michelle is Barack’s supervisor at their law office and has difficulty calling their afternoon together a date. Barack is obviously wooing her as her buys her lunch and takes her to a community event at which he is clearly the star attraction. They discuss their pasts, their passions and how they see their futures. Their strong character is evident as they feud, compromise and see how their strengths can complement and grow into something special. The film is interesting and especially noteworthy for the very strong performances of Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, smoking, a violent image and a drug reference.
The People vs. Fritz Bauer. Fritz Bauer is State Attorney General in Frankfurt, West Germany. It is the late 1950s and he is tracking down Nazis as ordinary criminals. He gets some information on the whereabouts of Adolf Eichmann, who is their top target for prosecution. The problem is that Nazis are still in positions of power in West Germany and they thwart Bauer’s efforts. Bauer decides on a very risky scheme to get Eichmann and bring him to justice. Bauer succeeds but at great cost to him and those close to him. The film has multiple layers of intrigue that keep the action going as well as challenging bigotries that are ingrained in Germany society. This foreign film is very interesting with strong performances – mostly in clouds of smoke. Rated R for some sexual content and endless smoking. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Ben-Hur. This classic tale of revenge and redemption did not need to be remade; well it was and poorly done to boot. Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) is a Jewish prince living in luxury in Jerusalem. Messala (Toby Kebball), Ben-Hur’s adopted brother, falsely accuses Ben-Hur of sedition. Messala is an officer in the Roman occupying army and has Ben-Hur sent to sea as a galley slave, where he endures endless hardships. He survives a shipwreck, is saved by an Arab Prince (Morgan Freeman) and returns to Jerusalem to seek revenge against Messala. After vanquishing Messala in a chariot race Ben-Hur finds redemption as Jesus is crucified. The film’s dialogue is clunky, some of scenes will make you cringe as they look artificial and none of the actors connect with the audience. This is another Hollywood remake flop. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing images.
War Dogs. The Iraqi War is in full swing when two buddies in their early 20s, David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli, (Jonah Hill) set up a business in Miami to exploit a new government program that promotes small businesses to bid on Military contracts. They make a killing selling handguns to the Army. They take their millions back to Miami and live the highlife. Greed is a stern master and they go for a $300,000,000.00 contract to arm the entire Afghan Military. They get the deal and now have to deal with the underbelly of the arms world and get in way over their heads. Everything that can go wrong does. Based on true events, the film is much more of a morality tale than a comedy. The film does engage and kept my attention throughout, as there is never a dull moment. Rated R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references.
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World. The Internet is explored from its humble beginnings in a computer lab at UCLA to the vital all encompassing experience of our age. Is the Internet a benign tool, an evil mistress, a hiding place for modern day robbers, an addiction, the cause of mass illness, or a transformative connection that will take humans to the next level of evolution? All of these issues are explored in this thoughtful and provocative documentary that fascinates from its opening scenes. It is not a geeky scientific expose but a very thought provoking exploration of a system that in 20 years has completely dominated our lives. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some thematic elements. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Little Men. Modern life in New York City is explored in this tender and telling tale of deep emotions, greed, rejection, love and money. The story follows two awkward teenage boys who are about to start high school and find a keen friendship that allows them to grow. Jake (Theo Tapitz) is an aspiring artist. Tony (Michael Barbieri) is brash and a bit too street wise. The tension develops as their parents battle over an inheritance and the need for Tony’s mother to pay rent to Jake’s family that she no longer can afford. Their neighborhood is gentrifying which brings more tension and new challenges. Jake’s dad (Greg Kinnear) is a mediocre actor who faces rejection daily. The boys face rejection from their peers. The adults do a poor job of making things better, but the boys who grow apart also grow up and give us hope for the future. This indie film has top-notch performances, so seek it out. Rated PG for thematic elements, smoking and some language.
The Little Prince. Director Mark Osborne brings us an animated film based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s iconic masterpiece, The Little Prince. A helicopter mother who is controlling all aspects of her daughter’s life is smothering The Little Girl. Her mother wants her to be a perfect grownup. Their next-door neighbor is the eccentric and benevolent Aviator who tells The Little Girl of a magical world where everything is possible. The Little Prince took the Aviator to the other world years ago. The Little Girl’s imagination begins to run wild and she finds the magical world and The Little Prince. With her childlike convictions and spunk she discovers the importance of human connections and what is truly essential in life – not forgetting. The end of the film is a whirlwind of action mixed with philosophy as The Little Girl saves the world – reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Rated PG for mild thematic elements. This is not for children younger than 10. Available on Netflix.
Tallulah. Ellen Page is Tallulah. She is much like a feral cat. She has escaped an awful childhood and is living out of her van and committing petty crimes to stay alive. Her boyfriend, Nico, wants to settle down and get married. She sends him packing and heads to New York City. While foraging leftover food in a NYC hotel she is confronted by an airhead, bimbo housewife who is heading out for a tryst. Desperate to be rid of her 1 year-old, the bimbo enlists Tallulah to babysit. Tallulah sees an opportunity to make a big score but ends up taking the baby to protect her from her mother. She is now alone in Manhattan with a baby and no money and no ability to care for a baby. She seeks out Nico’s mother, Margo (Alisson Janney), who lives in Manhattan. Margo has a huge amount of her own emotional baggage and now is faced with Tallulah and an alleged granddaughter. The two women begin to bond. They both have troubled lives and find a weird friendship. When all of Tallulah’s transgressions come home to roost and she is heading to jail, we sense that she may have gotten her act together with a new found faith in truth. Janney and Page turn in remarkable performances. Rated R for language and sexual content. Available on Netflix.
Sausage Party. This gross-out animated film will forever change your attitude toward the food you buy and eat. Frank is a hot dog who can’t wait to hook up with a curvaceous bun when the gods (humans) take them away to the great beyond. Well Frank figures out with the help of Honey Mustard this it not going to end well. The whole movie is foul-mouthed food items trying to survive the voracious gods. The film has some clever things to say about religion, society taboos, cultural bigotry and sacred cows. There are many sexual jokes, some funny but most just perverse. Some of the best jokes were different ethnic foods discovering they had much in common, including sexual preferences. Someday these filmmakers may finally discover that raunchy is not clever. Rated R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use.
Florence Foster Jenkins. Meryl Streep is Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress and music patroness who dreamed of being an opera singer. The only problem is that she had a terrible singing voice and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. The film is based on a true story. It is set in 1944 and brings that time alive. Florence’s husband, Bayfield (Hugh Grant), is incredibly devoted to her while keeping a mistress and an active social life away from Florence. Florence’s dream is to sing in Carnegie Hall which she is finally able to do with the help of her husband, accompanist and vocal coach. Streep who is actually a trained opera singer screeches and clucks up a storm as she celebrates this woman’s indomitable spirit. With pluck and luck Florence turns her performance into a triumph. The film is engaging and fun to watch its first-rate acting. Rated PG-13 for brief suggestive material.